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See and be Seen

Outdoor Dining Options Provide Something For All Tastes Buds

Story by Sadie Fowler
Photography by Alan Hudson

Bowling Green is known for its friendly people and fun opportunities that provide the perfect platform for enjoying life, and what better way to enjoy life than through the vehicle of … food. Known for having more restaurants per capita than perhaps anywhere else in the country, Bowling Green offers great variety in the way of dining, including outdoor dining, from just about any chain restaurant you can think of to cool and hip privately owned joints.

This time of year, diners have the luxury of moving the party to the outside by enjoying outdoor settings at several Bowling Green restaurants. Whether you’re in the mood for a refreshing margarita after work or sample unique craft beers while playing trivia with friends, there literally is something to satisfy a wide array of palettes.

“Bowling Green has a lot of cool little hidden gems that I’m not sure even everyone in Bowling Green knows about,” said local chef Hannah Coffey. “We have tons of chains here, but the local places, especially those that are almost like a secret, are really good.”

Not sure what you’re in the mood for? Here, we’ve mapped out a summary of what’s available for outdoor dining throughout the city. Cheers!


One of Bowling Green’s greatest icons is the white squirrel, and the White Squirrel restaurant as well! The hip dive prides itself in proving Bowling Green with craft beer … and crafted food. “We have great dishes that have a gastro-pub twist on family favorites,” said Sarah Wilson, general manager. “We have a fun atmosphere that has doors open to all friends and families.”

Wilson says when the owners of White Squirrel purchased the building it already had a patio, but each year since opening its doors they’ve tried to improve the environment.

“The patio has a romantic feel to it,” Wilson said. “There are cascaded flowers and plants on the walls, and dim outdoor lighting that’s accompanied by candles … The most compliments we receive are that the plant décor is what draws people to the outside.”

Live music, offered every Saturday from 8 to 10 p.m. is also a popular aspect of White Squirrel. What are some of the favorite menu items among outdoor diners? Wilson says a cold White Squirrel Kolsch always pairs well with any food items on the menu. The crafted cocktail menu is also a big hit, as is the sweet and spicy squirrel margarita. “That’s always a favorite!” Wilson said.

White Squirrel’s ‘hot jam burger,’ which is a unique combination of sweet and savory married between an English muffin, is a house favorite, as are the weekly specials that drive people in on the weekends as diners aim to sample whatever’s been crafted up for their delight.


If Mexican is your thing, look no further than the patio at one of El Mazatlan Grill’s several locations in Bowling Green. While the margaritas are great, what really attracts the masses to this favorite spot is the customer service.

Locally owned, El Mazatlan has several different locations in Bowling Green and they all stay packed. The traditional Mexican menu offers fare such as appetizers; pork, chicken, seafood and steak combination dinners; fajitas and enchiladas; salads and more. Don’t forget to check out the Maza la carta items on the menu.

The newest location of El Mazatlan, which seats 300-plus, is located at 300 Cumberland Trace Rd., and it stays jammed packed during summer months as patrons enjoy a chance to soak in the sun, sip on a cocktail and laugh among friends.

Other locations: 600 US 31 West Bypass (Fairway Avenue), 3521 Dahlia Way, and 2435 Nashville Rd. And if you’re ever on the road and craving quality food and service, rest assured you can find what you’re looking for in the El Mazatlan’s Glasgow and Cave City locations.


Under the same ownership, the Novo restaurants are the picture of perfect in terms of the chic gastro pub environment, which is a style of pub that concentrates on serving a higher level of quality cuisine. The term is actually a marriage of the words gastronomy and pub and was coined in the early 1980s in London when chefs began recognizing a demand for full-service dining experience in a comfortable and familiar environment.

While the Pub by Novo arm of the Novo brand offers a bit more of a relaxed environment compared to its sister locations, the basic concept of all branches of Novo remains the same. Some of the menu items patrons can expect to enjoy include appetizers like crispy Brussels sprouts with corn relish and maple lime vinaigrette, Buffalo cauliflower, hot brown nachos, burrata; to gourmet sandwiches and burgers; to pizza and pasta; and much more.

The Magnolia — a salad featuring baby kale, sprouts, cabbage, apples, walnuts, cranberries, gorganzola, prosciutto and croutons in a citrus vinaigrette — is one of several standout salads on the menu. Pizza is another favorite at the pubs, from the simple and classic margherita pizza to the tomato Florentine to the Siciliano, which features pepperoni, salami and procuitto. Diners won’t be disappointed in any of Novo’s fresh and delicious pizzas.

Other pub favorites on the menu include fish and chips, seafood scampi, shrimp and grits, grilled ribeye, cod puttanesca and beer braised brats.

The Novos all offer indoor and outdoor seating, but when the sun goes down for happy hour (from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday) there’s no better place to be than Pub by Novo, located at 2425 Scottsville Rd., where the walls literally come up and open into a large outdoor patio that includes comfortable seating, fire pits and the perfect setting for summer dining.

“The difference between a ‘gastro pub’ and an old-fashioned pub is the food,” according to pub owner Sasha Mandrapa. “A gastropub is ‘food forward,’ meaning that it’s all about the food. It is about creating dishes that are both interesting and comfortable. Gastro pub fare adheres to pub-like comfort, regularity and pricing, but raises the bar on flavor and quality of ingredients.”

While the variety of spiked specialties is more than extensive, patrons must not forget to try one of Novo’s root beer floats during an upcoming visit!


One hasn’t really been to Bowling Green if they haven’t been to Double Dogs, which packs the house any given night of the week with its indoor and outdoor seating, fun atmosphere and awesome menu. Some of the most popular items on the Double Dogs menu include macaroni and cheese, a variety of creative burgers, wings, and don’t forget the dog bowl nachos. Located at 1780 Scottsville Rd., diners won’t be disappointed after dining at the dog!

Even though it’s technically a chain restaurant, one of the most popular restaurants for outdoor dining in Bowling Green remains the Mellow Mushroom. Whether its gourmet stone-baked pizza that’s calling your name or the simple desire for a fun game night of trivia, the Mellow Mushroom’s patio is always a good place to be. Filled with fun and funky art, this pizzeria that also specializes in calzones and craft beer, is located on Chestnut Street, near Bowling Green’s popular downtown area.

Also downtown, residents of Bowling Green continue to have a favorite in Steamers, a vast, bi level eatery featuring surf ‘n turf items, a large beer menu in addition to a raw bar and fabulous patio. Steamer Seafood is located at 801 State Street.


643 Sports Bar
440 Main
Bike Rack Bistro
Buffalo Wild Wings
Corner Bakery
Double Dogs
Hickory and Oak
Mellow Mushroom
The Bistro
White Squirrel
Wild Eggs

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